The Theology of BSG: Religion in the BSG Universe

This is the second of two “set up” posts in this series, which focuses on the theologies that are present in the BSG universe. Since putting up the first post, I’ve learned that Ellen Leventry has written a brief article on the same subject on BeliefNet. You can find it here.

In the first post, I focused on what I believe is the central issue that is at play in the new BSG universe: Is there hope for the human condition? And, if so, are humans even worth saving? I pointed out that these questions are often explored in the context of the various faith traditions that exist in the BSG universe – traditions that mirror those in our own world.

Here are the chief examples:

1. Paganism/polytheism – the humans in the BSG universe are pagans/polytheists. Like the Romans and ancient Greeks, they believe in multiple gods, most of which are more “human” that the monotheistic “god/God” with which most of us are familiar. In times of crisis, they turn to the gods for protection. Particularly notable is the presence of the twelve zodiac signs (which originated in or before ancient Babylon). Each “sign” parallels one of the twelve colonies.

2. Samsara – some of the Cylons have expressed a conviction that the characters of the BSG universe are playing out roles that they have played in prior “lives.” This belief is similar to the Bhuddist and Hindu notion of samsara, which holds that there is a continual cycle of life, death, and re-birth. I think that there are also some versions of Hinduism which specifically hold that the stories/myths of history repeat themselves, but I’m not well versed on that belief system, and can’t really speak to it in any detail.

While I’m on the point, it is also notable that, when it originally aired in England, the main theme from the new BSG was in the form of a Hindu mantra.

3. Monotheism – the Cylons themselves are monotheists, as is the case with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Interestingly, their religion is primarily manifested in the use of their god to justify their militaristic, genocidal campaign to wipe out humanity.

4. Exodus – the theme of exodus, in which an oppressed people are led out of danger and to a haven of safety by a great leader, is strongly present in BSG. Similar themes abound in Judaism, and – Leventry points out in her article – Mormonism.

5. Resurrection – a central teaching of Christianity is that God will bring about a resurrection of the dead, of which Jesus was the first. The Cylons experience resurrection, though it is disturbingly unlike anything Christians profess. Yet, as I will explore later, the problems with the Cylon experience of resurrection highlight an important and distinct aspect of Christian resurrection which is deserving of reflection.

6. The Child/Savior – there are presently two children in the BSG universe in whom both “sides” hold great interest. The stories of these children parallel the Jewish prophecies of Messiah and the Christian tradition of Jesus’ birth. I think they also parallel some other older, pagan mythologies in which a child/deliverer is predicted to arise to save a people or nation.

7. Athiesm – Baltar, the chief bad guy in the series, begins as an athiest, though he appears to now have turned to a belief in the Cylon god. Adama, the commander of the human fleet and the Galactica itself, also begins the series as an athiest. Other characters appear to be agnostic, or just plain apathetic about religion.

What follows in this series will mostly focus on the parallels to the Judeo-Christian tradition and their response to the problem of evil, but I thought it would be good at the outset to recognize that there are a lot more faith traditions in the BSG universe than those which involve a personal, monotheistic deity.

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